WASHINGTON, DC — When asked on Friday if the F-35B could fly combat missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the head of the Marine Corps’ aviation said “we’re ready to do that.”
Noting that the decision to deploy the fifth-generation jet into combat would come from higher command, Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation Lieutenant General Jon Davis said the F-35B is “ready to go right now.”
“We got a jewel in our hands and we’ve just started to exploit that capability and we’re very excited about it,” Davis said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the current readiness and future trajectory of Marine Corps aviation.
Davis, who has flown copilot in every type model series tilt-rotor, rotary-winged, and tanker aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory, said the F-35 is an aeroplane he’s excited about.
“The bottom line is everybody who flies a pointy-nose aeroplane in the Marine Corps wants to fly this jet,” Davis said.
Last summer, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability (IOC) for 10 F-35B jets, the first of the sister-service branches.
“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,'” Davis said.
“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that aeroplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly nor General Dunford.”
Ahead of IOC, Davis said the Marine Corps “stacked the deck with the F-35 early on” by assigning Top Gun school graduates and weapons tactics instructors to test the plane.
“The guys that flew that aeroplane and maintained that aeroplane were very, very, hard graders.”
Davis added that the jet proved to be “phenomenally successful” during testing. “It does best when it’s out front, doing the killing.”
The Marine Corps’ first F-35B squadron is expected to arrive in Japan in January and then go to sea in the spring of 2018.
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